"3D printing is booming. We have cultivated a relatively good industrial system, with manufacturing techniques close to, or on a par with, leading foreign countries. The sector is leaping from laboratory research into industrial applications," Wang said.
Last year, the output value of China's 3D printing industry hit nearly 8 billion yuan ($1.12 billion), up 87.5 percent year-on-year, highlighting the strong momentum, AMAC data show.
Beijing, Shaanxi, Guangdong, Hubei and Shanghai have formed a 3D industry chain in terms of geography, covering product design, material, key components, equipment and industries applications. Shaanxi province has applied for over 1,000 3D printing-related patents.
"The technology represents the future direction of intelligent manufacturing as it combines the advantages of large-scale production with personalized manufacturing. It is highly efficient and cost-effective," said Zuo Shiquan, a manufacturing expert at the Beijing-based China Center for Information Industry Development, a research institute affiliated to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology or MIIT.
China's 3D printing industry is expected to reach $7.68 billion in output value, or one-third of the global market by 2020, according to a forecast by the China Industry Information Institute.
The MIIT is drafting a 2017-20 plan to accelerate the development of 3D printing. It established the National Innovation Center by forging extensive partnerships between universities and companies. The idea is to help address technological bottlenecks that impede commercial applications of 3D printing.
Not surprisingly, companies such as Shining 3D Tech Co Ltd, a Hangzhou-based 3D-printing specialist, are optimistic about the sector.
Shining has already provided 3D printing and scanning services to over 10,000 customers worldwide. Its clients include global corporate icons such as Intel Corp, Robert Bosch GmbH and Adidas.
Huang Xianqing, senior vice-president of Shining 3D, said 3D printing can meet consumers' growing demand for environmentally friendly and personalized products.
The company has successfully applied its 3D printing techniques to manufacture exhaust pipes for Ford cars. Different from traditional exhaust pipes whose simple design leads to bad air flow and huge power loss, the company's 3D-printed pipes weigh 67 percent less. They can also help vehicles change airflow speed of the car engine, which saves energy.
Earlier this year, Shining partnered with U.S. tech company Hewlett-Packard Inc to offer better 3D printing services. The two sides will deploy HP 3D printing hardware and software in 50 locations across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Nanjing.
It's not just high-tech or top-end segments that are embracing 3D printing. In Beijing's suburban Huairou district, Chinese engineers in an economic and development park are scrambling to make 3D printers that can churn out household items.
The engineers are employed by about 300 companies in the zone, among which is Beijing Tiertime Technology Co Ltd, China's first 3D printer exporter.